The Criminal Alien Removal Initiative and Racial Profiling in New Orleans
This past weekend, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ) published a report of a troubling new ICE strategy that involves indiscriminate raids in Latino communities to round up undocumented immigrants and deport them. Called "The Criminal Alien Removal Initiative" (CARI), the program is blatant racial profiling and is the equivalent of “stop and frisk” for the immigrant community. ICE agents wait in SUVs outside of grocery stores, schools, churches and on the streets in Latino neighborhoods and target people who appear Latino, often handcuffing them and refusing to answer questions and then using mobile fingerprinting units to instantly look up the subject’s immigration history. If the ICE agents find a previous order of removal, they detain the immigrant and order them deported. The Center profiles several immigrants and their families in New Orleans who have been victims of this callous program. A disturbing pattern of racial profiling, abusive and insensitive agents, and civil rights violations emerges. According to Erlin San Martin Gomez, he was picked up by ICE agents who then drove around the city for five hours looking for people of Latino appearance to arrest. The agents referred to this process as “going hunting”. An ICE agent told Enrique Morales Sosa that “Latinos are dirty” and that he was targeted because he looked Latino and was driving an old car. Ernesto Zacarias Lopez describes how ICE agents ran down a Latino man in the parking lot of grocery store and then kicked him in the knees until he was bleeding. ICE agents told the wife of one detainee that she had no right to speak. One agent told Carlos Cardona that he had no right to see a lawyer. Many of those detained have US citizen children and are essential bread winners for their families. Often they are torn away from their children and transported to a detention center and are uncertain if they will ever be reunited.
In the wake of ICE’s harsh initiative, the New Orleans immigrant community has organized to protest and draw attention to CARI. In November, family members of those detained filed pro se Stays of Removal, asking ICE to let them stay in New Orleans. Community members also filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out how CARI operates, how it’s funded and if it’s the future of immigration enforcement nationwide. Two hundred members of NOWCRJ protested outside of the New Orleans ICE office, demanding an end to CARI. Several were arrested for acts of civil disobedience. Later that day ICE responded with a wave of home raids and vehicle stops. One ICE agent told a protestor, Ronald, “I don’t want to see any more of those marches and protests, that just makes us look bad”.
The Obama Administration and ICE maintain that they are only targeting criminals for deportation. Yet, since when has looking Latino or driving an old car been considered a crime? In a New York Times article published on Sunday, Julia Preston examines ICE’s tactics and its effects on New Orleans’ Latino community, noting that there is a congressional requirement “to fill a daily average of about 34,000 beds in detention facilities” which adds up to about 400,000 deportations a year. Under this pressure to fill beds in detention facilities, ICE says they are just following the mandate and Congress’ orders but that it’s becoming more difficult to distinguish between high-priority violators and those with strong family ties. It’s then clear that the Obama Administration’s insistence on deporting record numbers of undocumented immigrants has led to the present situation where daily deportation quotas force ICE agents to go “hunting” in Latino communities to make their day’s goals. NOWCRJ warns that CARI might become the norm all over the country if it isn’t stopped now. As Saket Soni, the executive director of NOWCRJ says “the suffering has to stop”. NYT Article